Catch a glimpse of a traditional Shinto wedding procession at Meiji Shrine. A sight that will become increasingly rare because many young couples want a more western-style wedding with the all the works these days. They want the chapel, the gown and all that jazz (even the ceremony is presided over by a fake minister!).
The reason that Meiji Shrine is my favorite shrine to visit in Tokyo is because it's surrounded by an abundance of nature (though it's hard to believe that the park itself is man-made). And it's always a treat when I get a chance to see the solemn wedding procession of the bride and groom making their way to the main building of the shrine. The bride looks absolutely radiant in her kimono, almost like a princess. The procession is usually led by two priests and two shrine maidens, the couple then follows under a large, red parasol and then the couple is followed by their family and friends. A Shinto wedding is an intimate, private affair that takes place behind closed doors with the couple and their family and close friends.
The bride usually wears a white kimono to symbolize her purity and the large, red parasol represents good luck and prosperity for the couple and their future together. (To help maintain the solemnity of the procession, please stay clear of the procession and refrain from taking close-ups.)
Below is how a typical wedding ceremony is conducted:
1. Purification Rite (Shubatsu)
The wedding party stands and bows to be symbolically purified.
2. Prayer ( Norito-sojo)
The Shinto priest announces the marriage of the bridal couple to the shrine altar evoking the kami (god) and the wedding party stands and bows.
3. Exchanging of Sake (San San Kudo)
The bride and groom take turns sipping 3 times from cups of 3 different sizes: small, medium and large. For the first two times, the cup is raised to their lips. The sake is only drunk at the third sipping.
4. Wedding Vow (Seishi Sodoku)
The bridal couple approaches the altar and the groom reads the wedding oath.
5. Presenting the Sakaki Branch (Tamagushi Hoten)
This represents the official end of the ceremony and the couple receives a sakaki branch from a shrine maiden and places it at the altar. Then the couple bows twice and claps twice.
6. Exchanging of rings (Yubi-wa Kokan)
The couple exchanges rings.
7. Guests drink Sake (Shinzoku-hai )
All guests in the wedding party drink sake in celebration of the newlyweds.
When you visit the Meiji shrine, maybe you will be lucky enough to see a one. Meiji Shrine is one of the stops along our Tokyo Traditions and Trends tour.
Meiji Shrine is open from sunrise to sunset and the admission is free.